West Indies 2007 EUROPE 2005
Northbound from Grenada to Martinique
Grenada 9th -25th January 2007
St Vincent & The Grenadines 26th January - 8th February 2007
St Lucia 9th - 21st February 2007

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9th -19th January 2007: Grenada

Returning to the boat after 6 months was a tense time. Toward the end of our stay in UK my nights became haunted by thoughts of marine decay. Brine rusted pistons in their cylinders. Ants and cockroaches established huge colonies aboard. Mould spread through cushions and books. In reality apart from a small area of damp and mould from a leaking forepeak hatch we found the boat in good condition and sat back with rum punches on that first evening feeling much relieved and planning the next few weeks.


Although we found little had deteriorated we still had plenty to do to re-commission the boat for its launch. Additionally we wanted to use this opportunity to make some improvements.


The first 5 days we lived in a small apartment near the boat and we made good progress. There was free access to a laundry and we washed everything (and I mean everything). In the heat of the afternoon we had a break in the air con. In the evening we had cool beer and cooked stir frys.


When we left the apartment and moved aboard in the boatyard things got much more difficult. Inside the boat it got very hot without the sea to cool it down and there was little breeze in the yard. Also we had to clear the boat in the evening so we could go to sleep. In the heat we found it difficult to think and work and we achieved less. We got tired but couldn’t sleep at night. We had to delay our launch and started to employ people to help us with the work.


Originally planned for the Tues our newly painted and polished boat was finally launched to our great relief on the afternoon of Friday 19th Jan, and as the hot keel touched the cool water we felt sure we could hear a hiss as the boat cooled down.

Grenada: Living in the boatyard

Grenada: Living in the boatyard

POSTED BY MARK, 14/02/07

19th - 25th January 2007: Grenada

Broad grins decorated our faces as we motored out into the bay – the blue water, the cool breeze. It wasn’t long before the grins melted and frowns moved in. The newly packed stern gland (the seal where the propeller shaft exits the hull) was making a strange (read bad) sound. It was overheating and the noise rapidly got worse. We anchored “pronto” and went below to find a number of problems that we could not have foreseen before launch, but none were too bad and before long we were sitting on the foredeck with a cup of tea grinning again. We were afloat once more and about to start our second season in the Caribbean.


Over the next few days we adjusted that stern gland, replaced all the water pipes to the engine, fixed the toilet, rigged the sails and all the running rigging, re-commissioned the dinghy and outboard, cleaned the boat and loaded it with supplies. We began to gather weather reports and form plans for our passage north.


The islands of the Lesser Antilles are arranged such that when heading north the passage from Grenada to Carriacou or Union Island is potentially the most difficult – it being at the greatest angle into both the wind and the current - so getting the weather right for this first passage was particularly important. The weather seemed settled and favourable so we worked fast to get the boat ready. Wary after the problems on launch we tested the boat around the anchorage.


On Thurs 25th we motored 10 miles around the coast to St. Georges to check-out of Grenada and to reduce the length of the next day’s passage north to Union Island. We anchored in the lagoon next to the yacht club and near the centre of this truly attractive town with its fine, ornate, brick built houses.


The following morning we weighed anchor and motored quietly out of the anchorage at 4am. It felt strange travelling in the dark for the first time since we arrived in the Caribbean on New Years Eve 2005 but we needed the early start to ensure that we arrived at the reef strewn harbour of Union Island before nightfall. We motored up the lee of the island sheltered from current and wind but as dawn broke we cleared the island and headed into the channel. The current was strong here and we tacked east in the shallow water before setting off north for the next island. Free Spirit was sailing better than ever and we sped toward Ille du Ronde and on past Carriacou. The new antifouling (bottom paint) was certainly helping but maybe also our new rig set up was better.


We arrived at Clifton on Union Island at noon – four hours earlier than expected – and anchored behind the reef feeling very happy with ourselves and the boat.

POSTED BY MARK, 14/02/07

27th January - 6th February 2007: Union & Mustique

The small town of Clifton has few facilities but has always felt friendly to us and the anchorage has plenty of fresh mosquito-free breeze. We spent five days here; working on the boat in the mornings (including some improvements to the furling system – again - after glitches sailing from Grenada), going into town for a beer and supplies late afternoon, and returning to the boat before dark for dinner.


On Feb 1st we set out north for Mustique. I had very lightly tightened the stern gland in Union and, sure enough, it almost immediately started to make noises and overheat. Cursing, I went below resolving to loosen it and never tighten the blasted thing again while Nat sailed the, now engineless, boat into the lee of the island of Mayreau. A large cruise ship appeared and began following us quite closely intending to anchor behind the island. The wind got less – the ship got even closer. I worked the spanners. Nat worked the sails. Large graying Americans looked down at us vacantly from behind clip-on sunglasses. With our speed down to about 2 knots and the ship impatiently sitting only 30m behind I finished the job, started the engine and we pulled away like a mouse from under a falling foot. Clear of the island’s wind shadow we picked up speed and set course for Mustique through rainbows of spray.


We spent six days in Mustique; walking around the island, reading on the beach, generally having a bit of a holiday so to speak. Also we ate far too many pastries from the shabby but excellent French bakery called “Sweetie Pie” that charged us a different price each day. When the wind dropped after dark the boats in the bay settled sideways to the swell and rolled badly. We remembered this well from our time spent here with John last year. Feeling a bit more savvy this year, we laid a stern anchor toward the beach and pulled the boat around to face the swell. This worked well. We almost ran out of water – essential for showers after swimming – but the kind harbour master allowed us to fill jerry cans from his hut, and in return Nat thanked him with freshly baked banana bread. Towards the end of our stay we met a great couple - Gary and Deborah from Toronto – who invited us around for snacks and beers after the four of us had soaked ourselves to the bone on a walk around a lagoon and some beaches on the south of the island. We were loving Mustique but we were ready to move on. Not even the lure of Mick Jagger 'possibly' turning up for a chant at the last night of the Blues Festival at Basil's Bar could keep us; too much of a good thing and all that...


The night before our departure we woke around midnight with a bump on the side of the hull. I thought it was probably the mooring buoy getting twisted again so went on deck to investigate. I looked over the side and heard a splash and saw a swell in the water at the stern of the boat – maybe a big fish or shark I thought, but as I followed the noise around I, rather strangely, found a man just under the water hugging the side of the boat. It didn’t take long to realize this was a “Tief”. While I was wondering what to do – whack him with a boat hook? – jump in and strangle him like James Bond? – run back into the boat and hide? – he solved the problem by disappearing under the boat and emerging, some time later and very breathless, swimming rapidly into the darkness. Shocked, but very awake, we were congratulating ourselves on our security procedures (we always lock the dinghy, cockpit lockers and hatch when we sleep) when we noticed the he had stolen Nat’s bikini and a top which had been drying on the lifelines. Not sure whether to feel lucky or distraught, safe again or still threatened, we paced the decks for most of the night happy only in the knowledge that we were moving north - crime rates are far lower in the French Islands and north of Dominica. After reporting the incident to the local police the next morning, we sailed the short hop to Bequia, while they searched for a good swimmer, male, wearing a rather nice (and sadly missed) O'Neill bikini.

Mustique: Macaroni Beach on the windward coast

Mustique: Macaroni Beach

Mustique: Snorkelling off the boat in Britannia Bay

Mustique: Britannia Bay



POSTED BY MARK, 26/02/07
7th - 21st February 2007: Bequia & St Lucia

Although Bequia is one of our favourite islands we were keen to quickly move north so only spent a couple of nights here. Notably we swam along the beach, checked out of St Vincent and the Grenadines group of islands, and ate in the excellent Mac’s pizzeria.


In order to sail past St. Vincent and on to St. Lucia in one hop we left Bequia shortly before 0400. We motored up the lee sides of the islands and sailed rapidly in the windy and choppy inter-island passages. Between St. Vincent and St. Lucia was a hard, long beat to windward as always, although we avoided the need to tack with the help of a favourable tidal shift. With progress good we continued past the Pitons and found ourselves anchored off Pigeon Island in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, 12 hours after leaving Bequia. We went ashore for Rum Punches at Jambe de Bois, pleased not only with our successful passage but also for not being sucked straight into the marina (as we have been known to do once or twice in the past!)


We resisted for a few days but it got us in the end. While in Rodney Bay we decided to replace the batteries and to do that we really did need to be in the marina as they are very heavy and Dude just wasn't up to the job. The voltage from our batteries had been dropping gradually during last season (i.e. after hours of charging only 12.3V emerges and quickly drops to 12.0 rather than 12.6v from a good battery) but most electrical items like fans or lights continue to work fine, just a bit slower or dimmer. However, when leaving Bequia we couldn’t start the computer to help with navigation with the engine on. After much thinking I got simple wet cell batteries which were quite cheap (£150). What a difference! Everything works better.


Anchoring off Pigeon Island had always caused us (and other boats) problems. The anchor tends to drag. The sand is quite hard and our blunt, light 35lb CQR sits on its side and piles sand up rather than biting down into the sea bed like a plough. Since our departure from England we have carried a second 35lb plough type anchor (Harbour Fast Hi-Blade, formerly used around Britain on previous and soon to be famous boat “Hampshire Maid”). It is similar to the CQR but with a sharper point. We swapped to this second anchor while in the marina and on re-anchoring at Pigeon Island found it penetrates the hard sand better. We hope this new anchor will continue to set better in other areas.


Although keen to depart the marina for fear of becoming stuck there once more, the tail end of a cold front sweeping over the Virgin Islands brought heavy squalls and large seas and kept us put. Varnishing kept us indoors and busy. Time passed and America wasn't getting any closer. With the hope to reach New York (and maybe beyond) we summoned the courage to look at exactly how far we had to go, and how long we had to get there, allowing for the possibility of returning to the UK this summer. I divided the distance by the time and set gates or target times and places. So this is our initial plan for the season. Places are given with target arrival times.


Antigua (27 Feb) - Virgin Islands (6 Mar) - Luperon, Dominican Republic (20 Mar) - Great Exhuma, Bahamas (3 Apr) - Walker Cay, Abacos (17 Apr) - Charleston, USA (24 Apr) - Chesapeake Bay (8 May) - New York (15 May) - Boston (22 May)


Yes, we need to get our skates on...


As soon as we had a break in the bad weather we made a dash north for Martinique where we intended a major provisioning and laundry session. Unfortunately we just missed friends of Anna and Ian who were heading to St. Lucia on holiday.


Sailing past St Vincent

Sailing past St Vincent


Pigeon Island & Jambe de Bois


Nat cooking plantain spiders


Anchored off Pigeon Island


Rodney Bay Anchorage

POSTED BY MARK, 26/02/07


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